Archive for January, 2013

Profile of an Undead Predator

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 17, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

Humans are animals. I know this statement may offend some people’s sensibility but it’s a scientific fact.

We don’t want to be animals. We like to think of ourselves as better or more highly evolved or something else entirely which outranks an animal. We think of animals as a primitive species. Maybe this is why it bothers us so much. But we are, if you will pardon my comparison, “the gorilla in the business suit”.

We definitely behave as animals. Humans expect things to go a specific way. We want people around us to act in a particular fashion or do a certain thing. We take comfort in predictability. In keeping ourselves complacent by making our lives well planned in advance, we have domesticated ourselves. We never see the predator lurking around the next corner or the disaster waiting to happen.

When things do not go as planned or expected, it shakes us to our core and turns our world completely upside down.

Vampires may come from humans but they are definitely not human. There is nothing predictable about a vampire.

Vampires are predators, plain and simple. Every predator has special ‘tools’ bestowed on them by nature to help them hunt their prey like teeth claws or venom.

Therefore vampires have their own unique way of hunting prey. I will attempt to delve into these traits in more detail in this article. Please keep in mind that I am discussing the classical vampires not the more modern interpretations.

The first tool in a vampire’s arsenal is the talent of allure. The dictionary defines the word ‘allure’ as meaning ‘an attractive or tempting quality possessed by somebody or something’ or ‘to exert a very powerful and often dangerous attraction on somebody.’

This certainly describes the vampire in popular fiction. Whether they be male or female they always appear in all the physical perfection a human is capable of possessing. This is one of their most important hunting skills. A vampire cannot feed if he or she cannot attract meals to them. By appearing to the public as incredibly beautiful they lure their dinner to them instead of having to pursue a frightened or wary meal.

We are designed by nature to be attracted to beautiful things, and we find many things in life lovely to look upon. We are drawn to this beauty, like a moth to a flame.

Yet the rose always bears a thorn.

We are also taught from a very young age what behavior is acceptable and what is not. We are schooled from childhood through adult in a series of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’.

Clean up you mess but don’t touch the perfectly decadent cake sitting on the counter. It is for the party later.

Did you notice what I said? Just by mentioning there is a cake on the counter you want it, now. The hell with waiting!

Just saying don’t press the red button or all life as you know it will cease to be, makes you want to hit it to see what will happen next.

We are bombarded all our lives with ‘don’ts’. All it really does is put the thought in our heads to do just that.

Don’t pet the dog. He bites. Don’t touch the cat’s tail. He doesn’t like his butt touched and he will scratch. Don’t date that man because he’s trouble.

Don’t get involved with a vampire or he will eventually kill you.

We are taught these things but we are also fatalistically fascinated with the ‘don’ts’ and the ‘what ifs’.

We touch the mean dog because we tell ourselves, “If I go slow and talk sweetly to it, it won’t bite me. If we touch the cat’s tail really fast the cat won’t be able to whip around faster to get us. The bad boy isn’t really bad, he’s just misunderstood, or so we tell ourselves.

And what happens? The dog mauls our arm. The cat shreds our hand. The man dances on our heart, rips it out and leaves. Typical. Why didn’t we see that coming?

We are fascinated with danger. We want to stay safe but get a thrill from standing next to the disaster about to happen. The problem is that there is no safe place next to danger. It has a tendency to bite anyone near.

We also want to change the bad to good. We want to be the only person that dog doesn’t bite, the only person that cat doesn’t scratch. We want to be the one woman that can convert the bad boy into a saintly human being.

It’s a human trait to try to change the world around them and make it better. Our intentions are truly honorable. But when we apply that to other humans it often has a tendency to blow up in our faces. Then our friends are standing there, shaking their heads and saying “I told you so.”

Do you really think vampires don’t know this already? They are banking on us to be this way. We actually help them to hunt. They’ve had centuries to observe our patterns and develop their hunting skills. If they choose to prolong the hunt, they can wait lifetimes before they accomplish their eventual goal. Nothing is more patient than a vampire on the hunt.

Imagine the most brilliant ‘shrink’ you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. You trust this person.

And then you found out this doctor has criminal intentions toward the entire human race.

Kind of stops you cold doesn’t it?

Let’s look at another vampire requirement namely blood. It seems you cannot call a human creature a vampire without the need for the blood of others being a trait. (I am specifically excluding energy vamps from this article.)

We all are composed of organs fed by blood. We need to keep our it to ourselves. We can donate small amounts of it but if we lose too much blood at one time, we will die. If it is removed from our body and allowed to sit without agitation or the assistance of heparin, it becomes a solid. Doctors can tell what is wrong with the patient many times by analyzing it. It is the fingerprint of a body’s health. We cannot survive without blood.

Yet people have always been a little squeamish when the subject of blood comes up. Some people faint at the sight of their own blood, it cannot be withdrawn from the body without some measure of pain and blood can carry diseases or poison our system. It can feed our body or kill it. It is extremely important to our survival hence the word “lifeblood”.

A vampire cannot survive without taking it from us. The vampire’s method of feeding itself usually involves great pain for the host. He must also become a primal creature of savagery and great hunger. These can be quite frightening for the intended victim. Some vampires are capable of lulling their victims into a stupor so that they can feed easier although whether this is a kindness to the victim is still up to debate.

Vampires cannot exist without feeding on blood. For a vampire to deny himself this sustenance would cause the predator to become enraged or insane. They would eventually sicken. According to some renditions of the story a vampire can put themselves into a prolonged “sleep” that lasts years even centuries. But they are like the bear which has just ventured out from its hibernation den, very grumpy and absolutely ravenous. Do you really want to be the first person they encounter when they awaken?

And then there is the fact that vampires look human. Again this is part of their hunting mechanism, to seem something else, something common and familiar, something predictable.

But human they definitely are not!

We treat them like they are humans and they expect this. But they are wholly another creature altogether. They do not follow the same rules as humans, their morality. (or lack of it) is completely non-human and the way they like to pursue, cuddle up to and play with their prey, taking days even weeks to get it to trust them is more cat-like than homo-sapiens.

So next time someone tells you they love vampires, just smile sweetly and ask them what kind of flowers they would like at their memorial?

 

D.C. McLaughlin

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Advice to Writers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 17, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

A well-known author once told aspiring young wordsmiths that in order to be a good writer, one must write everyday. Unfortunately his or her advice, although certainly well intentioned, does not fit into every writer’s daily schedule. Such advice leaves me with the impression that the advisor lives in an apartment, does not own a car, does not have a significant other, does not have a ‘normal’ nine to five job and does not have children. They do not have to deal with mowing the lawn, keeping up repairs with the house and the family vehicle, do not have to deal with problems with the boss or co-workers or their romantic partner or their children’s hectic schedule that most ordinary people have to deal with everyday.

It certainly leaves me out in the cold. I aspire to writing everyday but most days it simply does not happen. I may not have children but I do have a husband, a job, a farm to run and critters to care for. Some days it seems I am mostly a janitor, a maid and an animal chef. With my schedule it’s amazing that I ever managed to sit down and take the time to knit more than a few basic words together let alone finish several novels on my own. (Maybe that’s why my house is less than spotless.) Sometimes I have to make an appointment with myself to write. I’ve even spent my week paid vacation from work staying home and sitting on the computer, editing one of my finished stories instead of gallivanting around the world on a fabulous adventure somewhere away from home like normal people do.

I do this because this is the life that I’ve chosen for myself, both the farm with all its critters that require feeding and daily care and the writing. They are my peace and my literary inspiration. I cannot choose one and live without the other. I do not enjoy the prospect that going a little cuckoo from such a choice might earn me. If you are a writer, you might be able to relate.

It took me a while to figure out this tiny bit of very important wisdom about myself. When I was an adolescent, I wrote and drew pictures like a madman, like my time was short. A good weekend for me was spent home either writing or drawing or dreaming up adventures in my own fantasy world I created in my own head.

Then at twenty-one I married and tried to settle into a ‘normal’ life like just any other married woman. It didn’t work. First thing that happened was my writing died a tortuous, painful death. The worst thing was I wasn’t even aware it was happening. For seven years I either didn’t write or when I did, it was disastrous. I knew the whole story in my head. But I kept writing myself into corners my characters couldn’t get out of. I never finished anything I wrote. My stories were colorless and hopeless.

I had no idea that this was a reflection of my life. I must be in a very good place to write and I wasn’t. So it just didn’t happen. For seven years it didn’t happen, no stories, no dreams, and no magical words. My writer’s mind was impotent, dry and cracked as an evaporated riverbed. I wasn’t happy equals no writing for me.

Then I got divorced. I tentatively began to dream and write again. I got remarried, this time to a man who fell in love with me for the words I penned. The words began to flow again, first a trickle and then a flood. My creative urge to write was reborn like the phoenix, spreading its fiery wings across a beautiful, brand new world. My words were different, more mature, better. Gone was the glitter and stardust of my earlier tales replaced by stories with darker, grittier more realistically believable characters. And the stories were actually getting finished this time.

I guess I better keep this guy around for the long haul.

So for all those would be writers and authors, dreamers and storytellers here is my advice to you:

Live!

This may be confusing to some of you. After all I didn’t say anything that had anything to do with a pen and paper or a keyboard.

Or did I?

I said you are to live just that and nothing more. Go out and have a life. Socialize with people. Make friendships, laugh and fight with your friends make up and mature. Laugh until you cry and your sides hurt, cry until your heart breaks. Fall in like with someone, fall in love, fall in lust. Whee! So much fun! Then get over it and move on. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t repeat the same ones. Experience every facet life has to offer you.

And through all this living you experience, write down your experiences. No, I’m not saying to keep a journal or a diary. Just write down every emotional experience you encounter; write about your joys, your sorrows, your pain, your triumphs. Write about how you’ve learned through these experiences, how it’s changed your perspective on this or that topic, how you’ve matured as a person through having these experiences. Just living life will improve your writing, give it depth and meaning, substance and power. Your words will transform from one-dimensional to many faceted. Life will tweak your words and you will become a person, not a fictional character in your own story.

As to whether you want to keep these words private or expose them to the whole world, that is up to you to decide. Being an open book can have its consequences. Maybe baring your heart to the world might or might not be the wisest thing to do depending on the situation. The alternative is to channel those feelings of hope and despair, happiness and longing and everything else in between, into the words, thoughts and mannerisms of a character. This can be a very safe and cathartic way of dealing with the myriad of experiences that life throws your way. Writing a story can almost be like therapy. It keeps the writer from ‘going postal’ so to say.

If you experience life in all its many colors and angles, so will your characters. This will give realism to your story and believability to the characters in your tale. Therefore the reader will be more apt to bond with the characters you create and become emotionally invested in the journey they go through.

In other words it will keep the readers turning the pages of your tale. And we all want that right? I certainly do.

We, as writers, need to hang a really big carrot in front of the noses of our readers. And we want to make that carrot as tempting as humanly possible.

If your reader doesn’t like carrots…well that’s a whole different discussion!

 

D.C. McLaughlin

“Deadly Conversations” Prologue.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 11, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

Deadly Conversations Prologue.

 

 

So for all my fans you finally get to see what I look like!  (Yes, I do smile from time to time!  I’m just more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it).

Anatomy of a Vampire

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 10, 2013 by dcmclaughlin

Every vampire is different.

We are human and humans are sadly prone to making assumptions about people, about things and yes, about writing genres. My purpose in writing this is to clear up some of the misconceptions I see in vampires.

The problem is that most people base their interpretation of vampires on the last movie they saw or book they read.

When I tell someone I meet that I am writing a vampire novel, invariably the first question I am asked is, “Do your vampires sparkle?”

No, they do not. Now please stop asking me this question.

A fiction writer, whether they write for the big screen or a novel, is the deity of the world they create. That means they can tweak or alter general beliefs however they see fit. Vampires change. Every book written on them which catches the public’s eye has proven this to be true. So has every movie produced. When Josh Whedon made the “Buffy” series, all of a sudden vampires didn’t breathe. When “Twilight” came out, vampires began to sparkle. Funny, they didn’t before!

What I am frustrated with is the lack of research with which some writers devote to their genre. They seem to write stories on vampires to cash in on their popularity in the media and never think of the history involved.

Vampires have history? But they are a myth.

Yes, vampires have history. Any writer wishing to dive into the deep end of the pool would be remiss in their job if they didn’t do at least some research even if the topic is mythical. Vampires appear in many cultures in the world. And in every culture they appear differently.

I have done quite a bit of research on vampires since I first started writing “Deadly Conversations”. No, I have not used everything I learned in my story. (I did some tweaking of my own.) But to not do the research I feel makes for a very flat character with no substance. The writer wants their characters to live in the minds and hearts of their readers. How can they do this if they are one-dimensional?

The first vampire most people remember hearing about is Count Dracula. He is fiction. Period. Count Dracula was a real person, a ruler who did some truly sadistic things to protect his realm from the Turks. He is the reason that Transylvania is mainly Christian and not Muslim to this day. But he was never a vampire.

However the local populace of Transylvania has had a long tradition of folk tales about vampires. This culture’s rendition was the first that made it to the outside world thanks to Bram Stoker’s dramatic embellishment.

According to Bram Stoker’s account Dracula (the fictional character) could walk around in daylight although his powers were greatly diminished. Dracula also had hairy palms and terrible breath. (I’m glad modern versions of vampires have dropped those qualities!)

Malaysian vampires, otherwise known as Penanggalan, are less pretty in appearance. They usually appear as the disembodied head of a woman that flies about using her hair as bat wings and draining their victims of blood at night.

Scottish vampires, known as baobhan sith, usually appear as beautiful women in a green dress dancing on the moor at night. She attracts men to her like a siren and feeds on their blood. The only sign that she is not human is her goat like hooves which she tries to hide under her long flowing dress.

Chinese or ‘hopping’ vampires, which have been called jianshi, cannot enter a home if it has a ledge because they cannot hop over it. They are held at bay by sticky rice and can smell a mortal’s breath. They also tend to be more zombie like and not very intelligent.

So you see? Vampires are all different.

And then there are the beliefs of what makes a vampire or how to deal with one. These too change depending on their culture of origin.

The wooden stake belief started because a dead body belonged in the ground and superstitious people believed that it was necessary to “stake” a body to the ground with either wood or iron. Archeological digs from Slavic countries still to this day are finding skeletons staked to the ground in their graves.

There was a belief in Europe that if a family had seven children, one child would become a vampire. Or if a person committed suicide, or a black cat jumped over a body before it was buried they would return as a vampire. And another belief that if a vampire was truly vanquished, they must return as a ghost to haunt those who killed him.

Modern writers have added their own spin to the whole vampire story.

The fictional Dracula may have been able to come out in the daylight but when the movie “Nosferatu “ was released in 1921, audiences were introduced to the idea that sunlight could kill a vampire. Movies today seem to flip flop between vampires being able to stand the sunlight or not. Likewise it seems some vampires can breathe while others don’t need to.

My version of this is that vampires can breathe but it is not necessary to their existence. They can turn it off and on at will depending on the situation. They do however breathe cold. Therefore if it is cold you can see a human’s breath but not a vampire’s. This works in reverse in hot climates. So my vampires pretend to smoke to draw attention away from this trait. There’s my tweak to the tale that may or may not ever come up in my story. Also my vampires do not ‘flit’. Yes, their reactions are much faster than a human’s but not in such a way that it would appear superhuman. That would just attract too much attention. I also tend to think of the ‘flitting’ trait especially while carrying a human on one’s back, as plain ridiculous. But then that’s just me.

More than this I do not care to divulge because that would ruin the surprise for my readers. Spoilers!

Vampires have been in the horrified dreams of many cultures long before any movie on the topic was ever made. The advent of film only cemented the public’s fascination with them even more. They do not seem likely to vanish from attention any time soon. We should enjoy their nuances with every rendition that is made and not get stuck on a certain quality or depiction.

And as we shiver in our beds or couches late at night, glued to the pages or the screen’s flickering image before us, we will thank God over and over again that vampires are only fiction.

Or so we hope!

 

D. C. McLaughlin